Powell willing to take Smith gamble

18 June 2013 08:18

England head coach Hope Powell believes it is worth taking a gamble on the fitness of Arsenal striker Kelly Smith as part of her 23-strong squad for the European Championships in Sweden next month.

Smith, 34, is one of several players who have more than a century of caps in the group, and will be set for a sixth major tournament. However, the veteran forward has not played competitively for the best part of three months following a shin injury during the Gunners' semi-final first leg against Vfl Wolfsburg.

"Kelly's obviously a gamble, we know this, but for the last Euros we could name 21 players, this is 23, so that gives us that little bit of luxury and it's really good actually," said Powell, who will be without left-backs Rachel Unitt and Claire Rafferty because of knee injuries.

"With Kelly, we have recognised what she could offer. So is it a gamble taking her? Probably, but I am prepared to take that gamble."

Captain Casey Stoney is another who has been out of action recently, the Lincoln Ladies defender suffering a hamstring injury. However, the 31-year-old is confident she will be able to take full part in the tournament, which kicks off against Spain in Linkoping on July 12.

Powell said: "We will have to manage the players coming back from injury, have to manage those with wears and tears, but when you come into the tournament itself, the demands of training are less, but the demands of the game are higher. It is our responsibility to look after these factors."

England's Lionesses have maintained good progress since their heartbreaking defeat in the final of Euro 2009 against Germany, going on to reach the last eight of the 2011 World Cup and with the Football Association's revamped Women's Super League now helping player development through to the elite level.

Victory in the Cyprus Cup during March further boosted confidence following an impressive qualifying campaign.

Powell, however, knows her squad will have to step things up again when they look to progress through a group which also includes Russia and tournament favourites France.

"The Cyprus Cup is always good in terms of preparation, giving everyone an opportunity to play. The fact we won it in the style and manner we did is a real confidence boost," she said. "They key now is we have to do it when it counts in the Euros."

Source: PA